Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

Ulises Gonzalez is the co-owner and general manager of Lacteos Santa Martha, a family dairy in Jinotega, a town in the mountainous northern region of Nicaragua. Once a small operation, the dairy now produces a wide range of products — white cheese, string cheese, dulce de leche, manchego — thanks to a USAID capacity building program.

Nicaraguans receive an average of only 4.6 years of schooling in their lives, and just 2.1 if they live in poor, rural areas. Nearly 500,000 children between 3 and 12 are receiving no schooling whatsoever. Increasing access to quality, primary education for all children is vital to Nicaragua’s social and economic development.

Nicaragua's Criminal Procedures Code had not been changed since it was originally established in 1879. This code gave judges alone the principal responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes. All evidence was required to be presented in writing, and people accused of crimes had little or no opportunity to present their defense in court.

The El Gorrión Cooperative, located 100 miles north of Managua in the municipality of Yalí, was founded in 1995 by 30 small-scale coffee producers who joined forces to increase incomes by selling a greater volume of coffee. Over the decade since its founding, El Gorrión grew to include more than 500 members, achieving economic independence and self-sufficiency, and managing no less than one million pounds of raw coffee produced by its members. 

Challenge

For centuries, Indigenous Misquito and Mayangna communities lived off the land in what is now Nicaragua’s Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. For years, Nicaragua’s government did not recognize the indigenous peoples’ claim on the land. Also, since the end of the civil war in 1990, poor farmers, or mestizos, from different parts of the country migrated to Bosawas, converting natural forests to grazing lands and threatening both the integrity of the indigenous communities and the region’s biodiversity.

Alternativa Solidaria A.C. (AlSol), a local microfinance institution serving women in the Chiapas region, has grown and improved its operations spectacularly. With USAID support, AlSol has become financially sustainable and now serves over 16,000 women.

But with this success, its director, Katia Corroy, felt a more urgent need to establish a marketing position that would keep a continuous eye on the needs of current and potential clients; research market expansion and product development; and manage client satisfaction.

As one of the first developing countries to commit to specific goals to combat climate change, Mexico has implemented the Special Program on Climate Change (PECC in Spanish), which aims to reduce emissions by 51 billion metric tons of CO2 per year by 2012 . To achieve this ambitious goal, Mexico's Ministry of Environment (SEMARNAT) assumed responsibility for gathering and processing data from government agencies with climate change commitments .

Eighty-year-old Rogelio Vazquez doesn’t have to work on his Oaxaca coffee farm as often as he used to, now that his four sons have assumed responsibility for the family business. In Mexico, supporting a family on coffee income was never easy, but now that he has adopted new methods and new markets, Rogelio is able to support his four sons and 36 members of their extended family.

Farmers on the 3,259 square kilometers of Oaxaca’s Central Valley struggle to raise their crops with limited amount of groundwater. And when Ricardo Sosa, president of his community farmer association, went to Mexico’s National Water Commission to request permission to dig more wells, he was turned down. The groundwater level had become drastically low because of drought, he was told, and overexploited by inefficient use. Under the traditional system of canal irrigation, up to half of the water never reached the field. Farmers never knew when they would receive water, or how much; it would flow for 12 hours, then not for months.

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Last updated: December 22, 2014